Thoughts on Action
"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~ Nicolas de Chamfort

Motherhood: A Million Little Heart Attacks

Drew on a LadderEvery year, we host a big bash called Friendsgiving where we put out a couple of turkeys and our friends bring the side dishes. Friendsgiving is a favorite holiday in our household, but it’s also the most perilous. Drew kicks things off by almost losing his eyebrows dropping the first bird into the deep fryer. Then we each drink enough red wine to kill a small rhinocerous, and the event comes to a ceremonious close the next morning when he takes down the Party City autumn leave streamers taped to the top of our 20 foot ceiling. Which requires standing on the top shelf of a 12 foot ladder resting on plush, wobbly carpet.

It’s no easy feat for him – but it’s even harder having to watch, and you start to understand where clichés like your heart being in your throat come from. Of course, I’m no help. I interject with clever advice like “BE CAREFUL!!!”  and hover around the ladder like a volleyball setter, despite having exactly zero chance of doing anything to stop it if he were to topple over. But I do it anyways. Because I would die if anything ever happened to Drew. And it makes me understand, on some level, why my Mom would have a coronary when any of us kids came within three feet of a ledge, cliff or other such hazardous area.

And we were always approaching those areas! Partially because that’s just what kids do, but mostly because were entertained to no end by her legendary freakouts at the thought of one of us plummeting to an untimely death. Watching Drew on the ladder made me realize that I too would suffer a million little heart attacks if I had a couple of tiny tots wandering around in this dangerous world. Because there truly is no limit to the number of ways in which children can injure themselves, whether it be minor or grave.

When I was in high school, my mom, who was out of town at my brother’s tennis match, had to field a phone call from my neighbor who managed to convey that I’d been in a horrible car accident but neglected to say that I was mostly alright. By the time she arrived to find me in once piece, she looked like she’d seen a ghost. I think I lopped a solid four years off her life with that scare, or at the very least, contributed to a few grey hairs. What she doesn’t know is that I’ve cheated death more than few times since then. Six years ago, I stepped on the hem of my sweatpants while standing on the sink to paint my bathroom and fell rather ungracefully, my head missing the edge of the bathtub by a cat’s whisker. In college, I woke up in a pillow full of my own vomit (well…who didn’t?) that I’m still amazed I didn’t drown in. Just before we got engaged, Drew yanked me out of the street a millisecond before I would’ve jogged into a Mack truck. Literally, it said “MACK” on the side!

There are probably many more incidents from my childhood I don’t even remember. Just this year I heard a story about my brother and me wandering off and accidentally locking ourselves into a tiny storage space in a neighbor’s RV in hundred degree heat for hours. Quite frankly, it’s a miracle ANY of us have made it this far. And it’s fine to marvel at the unlikeliness of your own survival, but it’s quite another thing to add a few more souls to this Earth, knowing that you’ll feel it in the very marrow of your bones every time they lose a layer of tongue to a winter’s telephone pole or get kicked by a horse for withholding apples and affection. Or worse.

Could my ticker handle it? Would I be doing irreparable harm to my physical well-being? Or maybe it’s like spicy foods being healthy. Where despite that shock to your system, there are good things at work behind the scenes, like boosted metabolism and lowered cholesterol.

Or maybe the “it’s worth it / it’s good for you” mantra is just a Machiavellian scheme cooked up by parents and Tabasco executives…

6 Responses to Motherhood: A Million Little Heart Attacks

  • I readily admit that I live my life in constant fear of something happening to my kids. And I’m scared of screwing them up by being an over-protective helicopter parent because I can’t stop envisioning the millions of ways in which they could severely injure themselves.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Yup, I completely understand where the phrase helicopter parenting comes from…and why it happens!

  • Marie says:

    My older one is super impulsive (like me). At least once a week I wonder how I am still in one piece. I could totally see her deciding to climb a ladder in loose slippers and falling off it someday. I was really neurotic too at first, but it was making me crazy. She is her own person and I can’t be there all the time. I used to interview recent college grads for jobs at my old company, smart kids coming from top universities, and these kids were so incapable of making any decisions for themselves and had no common sense or street smarts. Sometimes their parents would call me just to chat about things to make sure we were a good place for their kid to work. We didn’t hire them. I don’t want that to be my kid.

    I don’t totally ignore my kids’ safety, but I have managed to successfully compartmentalize it to a rational part of my brain that reminds me what is likely and unlikely to happen. That said, my big dread fear isn’t that my kid will be hit by a car or fall out of a tree, it’s that my kid will be terrorized in some way. Just thinking about that gives me the willies. If I ever feel that I could have done more to protect my children while they are young (falling out of a tree doesn’t count – I can’t control everything), I think it would be hard for me to even breathe.

    Last week, after Newtown, my co-workers who have kids all stood around together. We weren’t really talking, it was just sort of comforting to be with people who understood what we couldn’t actually say to each other about how hard it was to be a parent of young kids that day.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      The parents getting involved in their kids getting jobs thing is INSANE – I don’t see how they don’t realize that it’s an automatic black mark against their child as a candidate because it implies the kid can’t do anything for themself!

  • Scott says:


    Forget a 401k or bonds. Time to get a big fat life insurance policy on your wife. Sounds like she could take herself out of the world at any moment, and you want to be ready for that. You’ll need a lot of money to cover the booze at the funeral, at the very least…. : – )

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      The booze bill would probably rival the one at our wedding, which I didn’t think was possible.

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